RALEIGH, N.C. (WGHP) – As he has been predicting for the past week, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper on Saturday morning, the day before Mother’s Day, issued his veto of Senate Bill 20, the measure that adds new restrictions to abortion rights.

Cooper and the North Carolina Reproductive Freedom Coalition hosted what they referred to as a “Veto Rally for Health Care Freedom” at 10 a.m. Saturday at Bicentennial Mall in Raleigh.

Before applying his stamp and signature, Cooper read aloud his veto message: “This bill will create dangerous interference with the doctor-patient relationship leading to harm for pregnant women and their families. With its medically unnecessary obstacles and restrictions, it will make abortion unavailable to many women, particularly those from lower income, those who live in rural areas and those who already have limited access to health care. Therefore, I veto this bill.”

The event featured several speakers, including Planned Parenthood Action Fund President Alexis McGill Johnson, Planned Parenthood South Atlantic Chief Medical Officer Katherine Farris and Black Abortion Defense League Founder Tina Marshal.

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein pushed to win seats in the General Assembly and the state Supreme Court, as well as winning the governor’s office in 2024. Stein is currently the only Democratic candidate for governor in the 2024 election, running against Republicans State Treasurer Dale Folwell, a native of Winston-Salem and graduate of UNC-Greensboro, and Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, a native of Greensboro, and Libertarian candidate Mike Ross. Former Rep. Mark Walker, a Republican, has set an announcement for May 20 about a possible run.

“The Republican General Assembly does not trust the women of North Carolina to make their own decisions about their own bodies, their own families and their own futures,” Stein said. “These decisions are among the most personal that anyone ever makes. They should be made by you after talking to your loved ones and your doctor. They should not be made by a bunch of politicians here in Raleigh.”

SB 20, the “Care for Women Children and Families Act,” tightens to 12 weeks the window for elective abortion, retains for longer periods the access to abortion based on exceptions for rape, incest, the health of the mother and fetal abnormalities and adds money for a variety of related initiatives.

This approval was for a 46-page version of a gutted bill about child abandonment that was pushed through within 48 hours of first being revealed. After about six hours of debate, the NC Senate voted, 29-20, on May 4, less than 24 hours after the House voted, 71-46. Both votes were along party lines, with some absences.

Whether Cooper’s veto stands hinges on his getting at least one Republican in either chamber to step away from his or her original vote. Cooper lost a veto override vote on pistol permits because three Democrats in the House didn’t show up to vote.

And one of them, Tricia Cotham of Mecklenburg County, once a vocal opponent of abortion restrictions, since has switched from Democrat to Republican.

Cooper has spent the past week traveling around the state to generate pressure on Cotham, Rep. John Bradford (R-Mecklenburg), Rep. Ted Davis (R-New Hanover) and Sen. Michael Lee (R-New Hanover), all of whom had expressed support for the state’s 20-week window that has been in place since the U.S. Supreme Court ended Roe v. Wade in its Dobbs decision. All but Davis – who was absent – voted for SB 20.

Various polls have shown that North Carolinians support some access to abortion, and Sen. Joyce Krawiec cited a poll conducted by lawmakers in March that said 57% prefer limiting that to the first trimester, which is what SB 20 does.

But Cooper and most Democrats call this a “ban” on abortion and cite restrictions about how medical abortions can be administered, the requirement of doctor visits, the definitions for clinics that can do procedures and other technical issues in the bill as part of building a broader ban.

“I have been clear all along that I believe women, their families, and their doctors should make their own healthcare decisions and not politicians in Raleigh,” Rep. Ashton Clemmons (D-Greensboro), the House’s No. 2 Democrat. “This bill will make my daughter and every other woman in our state more likely to suffer physical and emotional distress as they face the many unpredictable challenges that occur in women’s reproductive health care.

“Most North Carolinians are against these restrictions on women, and I support Governor Cooper’s veto.”

Response to Cooper

WGHP on Friday reached out to various Republicans and Democrats who represent the Piedmont Triad to ask their feelings about Cooper’s planned veto. Two of them, Krawiec and vocal supporter Sen. Amy Galey (R-Alamance) signed on – with Sens. Lisa Barnes (R-Franklin) and Vickie Sawyer (R-Iredell ) – to a release Friday from Sen. Leader Phil Berger’s office that attacks eight points of “fiction vs. fact” in comments made by Cooper and other Democrats.

Those points include comments made about an “extreme abortion ban” by Vice President Kamala Harris. They refuted Cooper for calling this “a ban throughout the first trimester” and saying that all abortion clinics “would have to close their doors.” The bill requires clinics to meet the same standards as hospitals.

There were other clarifications about the 12-week limit, the number of doctor visits, privacy limitations and technical issues.

State Sen. Amy Galey (R-Alamance)

“This bill is not a ban on abortion. To say otherwise is propaganda,” Galey told WGHP in an email last week. “This bill allows for legal abortion for any reason up to 12 weeks, for reasons of rape or incest up to 20 weeks, because of a fatal fetal anomaly up to 24 weeks, and for the health of the mother throughout the pregnancy. There are many in our caucus who would like to have seen a much more restrictive bill, but the reality is that would not get enacted into law. 

“This bill will save the lives of unborn children but respects the autonomy of women during early pregnancy.  North Carolina is a leader in the nation with its commonsense, reasonable approach to this difficult and complicated issue.”

Other perspectives

State Sen. Michael Garrett (D-Greensboro)


“I look forward to standing with Gov. Cooper Saturday as he vetoes SB20. This is the latest chapter in the GOP’s culture war they’re waging on North Carolinians. “During the campaign, they told voters they believed the current law on the books was fine. Now, with supermajorities, they’re returning to governing from the extreme, and this abortion ban is the latest attack on our people’s freedom. I will proudly stand with the majority of North Carolinians in fighting back against this war on freedom and vote to sustain the governor’s veto.”

Rep. Jon Hardister (R-Whitset)


“This is a deeply personal topic, and I respect opinions on both sides of the discussion. That said, the legislation under consideration is not extreme. It is a reasonable approach to protecting life while providing exceptions for rape, incest and the health of the mother. The bill provides women and health care professionals with the ability to make medical decisions when the health of the mother is in question, and these decisions are not limited at any stage of the pregnancy. This addresses the concerns that many people have raised about medical treatment in pregnancies that may involve a complication. The bill limits abortion after the first trimester, which is not a radical policy, especially with the establishment of exceptions and clarity on medical considerations for the mother. It is similar to the laws in many European countries. While opinions on the subject vary, many people support some form of limitation on abortions. I will continue to listen and respect opinions on all sides of the discussion as we move forward.” 

Rep. Renee Price (D-Caswell)


“I stand with the governor. With his veto of S20, Governor Cooper is standing with women, demonstrating his respect for women, and acknowledging that we have the right to decide the best course of healthcare for our bodies. Women have been treated as second class citizens for far too long, and this veto is one way of affirming that we are first class. I thank Governor Cooper for recognizing the dignity of women. 

Rep. Cecil Brockman (D-High Point) (NCGA)


“I believe a woman’s health care decisions are better left between her and her doctor. The decision to interfere is wrong and seeks to limit women from accessing what can be a difficult but necessary healthcare decision.”

Rep. Neal Jackson (R-Randolph) (NCGA)


The most precious gift man can be given is the gift of life. Therefore as legislators, one of our greatest responsibilities is to be protectors of that gift, inside and outside of the womb.” 

What’s in the bill

The compromise update of Senate Bill 20:

  • Provides access to an elective abortion up to 12 weeks of pregnancy, in cases of rape and incest up to 20 weeks, with no requirement for a report to law enforcement.
  • Sets abortion for a fetal, life-limiting anomaly up to 24 weeks.
  • Continues current state law that there is no exception on abortion in the case of a threat to the life of the mother.
  • Requires any abortion after the second trimester to be done in a hospital and establishes new standards for health care facilities to support abortion.
  • Guards against the Illegal distribution of abortion-inducing drugs and continues the current law that abortion-inducing drugs must be taken in the presence of a physician.
  • Maintains a 72-hour, in-person consent process.
  • Sets aside millions of dollars for childcare, mental health assistance and paid maternal/paternal leave for state employees.

Changes in the law

Since Roe v. Wade was overturned last summer in the U.S. Supreme Court’s Boggs decision, which said abortion laws were the province of the state, North Carolina had been operating with a 20-week abortion window.

Most abortions are now banned in 13 states, and Georgia has a 6-week ban. A similar 6-week limit is under review by the Florida Supreme Court.

The U.S. Supreme Court on April 21 extended access to the drug mifepristone, which is used in a cocktail with misoprostol as the most common form of abortion.